Change your Walk, Reduce Your Risk of Attack


This is such an important subject.  I am so glad that research is backing up what myself and other self defense experts have been saying for a very long time.  How you walk, how you present yourself to the world non verbally is a key indicator of your risk of being attacked or assaulted.  I use examples similar to those mentioned in the article in our self defense classes.  When I point these things out to the students they are usually not shocked.  They know that something is not right but they have never been taught how to correct the issue.  In many cases it’s pretty simple to change.  Some key sentences or thoughts to take away from the article are as follows:

Please read and share the article below and if you have questions please ask.

  • The article states “victims also tend to experience repeated victimization.  Clearly, this is evidence that there are qualities about the victim that suggest vulnerability. “  I firmly believe this.  We all know those who seem to find trouble or are repeatedly in abusive or bad relationships.  This article touches on one of the many reasons why this is the case.
  • The article also states “Interestingly, those walkers who were rated as easiest to attack in one condition were also rated as easiest to attack in other conditions.“  This statement and the one above implies that the person is yelling things nonverbally that they may want to rethink and change.  I believe that many don’t realize that they exhibit this vulnerability and would readily change it if they were told how. 

Please read and share the article below and if you have questions please ask.

How To Avoid An Attack Just By Changing How You Walk, Study.

Listen to your bad feelings

Original Article Location

How To Avoid An Attack Just By Changing How You Walk, Study.
Christopher Philip

A pack of wolves does not select its potential dinner based on random qualities. This logic along would seem to suggest that human criminals don’t either. Studies have shown that convicted offenders report that they select victims that offer sufficient reward for minimal effort. Naturally, they are not always conscious of their own selective process.

Interestingly, and by the same logic, victims also tend to experience repeated victimization. Clearly, this is evidence that there are qualities about the victim that suggest vulnerability.

Movement patterns has been eluded to in previous research as a source of relevant cues. These may include gesture, posture, exaggerated movement. In fact, colleges routinely recommend that women “walk tall and walk confident.” That being said, little research has been conducted to empirically support this notion.

Powerfulness of gait was also previously described as youthful including greater hip sway, knee bend, stride length, arm swing, bounce and loose jointedness.

It is presumed that walking style can specify permanent factors such as a person’s make-up and geometry as well as temporary factors such as a person’s mood, needs and intentions.

In the first experiment, female walkers were videotaped and then converted to point-light images for review by subjects with respect to their vulnerability to be mugged and raped. In the point-light technique, the subjects wore tight fitting black clothing. Reflective tape was attached to the shoulder, elbow, hip, knees and feet. The video was then modified such that only the reflective tape was visible to observers.

The prototypically easy to attack walkers had short stride lengths relative to their height, had mostly forward/backward weight shifts and are defined as “gestural walking styles.” This style of walking consists of lifting the feet, using limited arm swing, have low energy, and weigh relatively little.

Prototypically difficult to attack walkers have long strides relative to their height, shift their weight in 3-dimensions, and “postural” walk.” This style of walking consists of swinging the feet, a full range of arm swing, high energy, and walk relatively fast. They also tend to weigh relatively more.

The researchers note that the prototypical hard to attack walking style is also similar to that associated with more powerful individuals.

The second experiment was conducted the same as the first experiment, but observed male subjects instead. The results showed that male walking styles which indicated ease of attack were much like those found in women. In this case, however, the relative weight was a stronger predictor, likely due to the overall greater strength and ability to resist attack found in men.

The third experiment added additional elements including specific footwear including high heeled shoes and a tight skirt which serve to restrict movement.

The results showed that walkers were rated as easier to attack when they wore skirts rather than leggings or trousers and easier to attack when barefoot or when wearing high heels rather than flat shoes.

Interestingly, those walkers who were rated as easiest to attack in one condition were also rated as easiest to attack in other conditions. This shows that the experiment is robust, but also that the walking styles “followed” subjects around from one condition to the next indicating that they possess specific characteristics.

Drawing Conclusions

The prototypical hard to attack walker has a long stride length, swinging foot movement, large arm swing, higher energy, lower constraint, walks fast, and has a relatively high body weight. The hard to attack walkers also has a three-dimensional weight shift and moves gesturally with lateral (forward-backward) weight shift.

The difficult to attack prototype suggests a person who is low on vulnerability and can escape faster from potential attack with longer strides and higher energy with the ability to defend themselves with higher body mass.

In other words, the cues one tends to avoid when seeking a victim is, powerlessness.

Also noteworthy, is that the measures in the study were not depended on the walker’s age, height or weight, but rather cues which were more or less under the direct ability of the specific walker.

Assessments of walking styles were made quickly from ‘thin slices’ of video demonstrating just how quickly people make presumptions about others based on movement and nonverbal behaviour.

Also of note is the lack of knowledge that attackers have about the cues they use to detect vulnerability as perceptions were made so quickly, it is unlikely that they realized the specific qualities they were viewing.

Obviously, the study is not able to conclude that the assessments of the “easy of attack” is accurate or predictive in real life. However, the researchers do draw on previous assessments with respect to perception an action. However, in the end, this might not necessarily be relevant to our current issue.

For, being able to thwart an attack is not relevant if one is able to avoid an attack to begin with. Walking style, footwear and constrictive clothing such as skirts is something that everyone can modify with relative little ease, and this simple cue will indicate to others that one is not easy prey. This may be enough to signal to would-be attackers that one is not easy pickings and help people avoid an attack.


Gunns, Rebekah E; Lucy Johnston; and Stephen M. Hudson. Victim Selection And Kinematics: A Point-Light Investigation Of Vulnerability To Attack. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 2002. 26(3): 129-158.

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Farrell, G., Phillips, C., and Pease, K. Like Taking candy. British Journal of Criminology. 1995; 35: 384-399.

LeJeune, R. The Management Of A Mugging. Urban Life. 1977;6: 123-148.